With London around corner, Sochi building its 'dream project'


While London rushes furiously to finish preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics, work continues at perhaps an even more impressive pace in and around Sochi, Russia, host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"About 60,000 people are working 24/7. It's a big job," said Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi Organizing Committee for the 2014 Games. "It's the biggest construction site, I suppose, in the world. Previously it was Dubai. Now, Sochi is the largest to deliver this unprecedented project."

Much of that construction has been along the route to the mountains, where a new ski resort held Russia's first World Cup alpine races last winter.

"We're building a new city in the middle of nowhere," Chernyshenko said of all the development. "It was literally nothing there. It was empty and we're lucky we can build a dream project. We started from the scratch from a blank canvas and are painting the dream ideal project."

Sochi is a resort city of more than 300,000 on the Black Sea with a warmer winter climate than Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Games. The mountains rise dramatically just 30 kilometers from the sea.

"It sounds strange, but the Winter Games will be held in a sub-tropical city," Chernyshenko said. "That was one of our competitive advantages of our bid. ... The weather is very mild, and during the Olympic Games, the weather is traditionally around 10 degrees Celsius [48 degrees Fahrenheit] in the coastal parts while it's about minus-5 [24 Fahrenheit] in the mountains and with a lot of snow because of the high humidity air from the sea.

"Nobody will be frozen at the opening ceremonies. Generally, it will be very convenient for the athletes and the spectators. Can you imagine the palm trees and the snow-capped mountains?"

Asked to compared Sochi to Vancouver, Chernyshenko said Sochi was a relatively unknown city. "We had a very different starting position. We had to deliver 20 times more infrastructure than was done for Vancouver."

Chernyshenko said Sochi is building 300 kilometers of new roads and 200 kilometers of railway, plus tunnels, bridges, power plants and a new sewer system. And, of course, it is constructing 11 competition venues. There are more than 3,000 heavy trucks and hundreds of cranes in use.

"It's an unprecedented project," he said. "It's a challenge, particularly in managing such a project. Because never in the history of Russia were we developing such a great amount of work continuously. But it also helped us gain confidence that Russia is capable to accomplish such an ambitious project, and it opened the gates for the next big event."